Wonder Where The Money Went?
"Legislative leaders Thursday set Oct. 3 as the start of an already once-delayed special session to erase a $1.1 billion shortfall in the state's $71 billion budget." "Lawmakers circle Oct. 3 as date to start cutting".
Wonder where the money went? This might help: "Retirees' dreamland is Republican bastion", "Gov. Bush defends his record of tax cuts" ("A review of tax cuts enacted during Bush's terms show the bulk of the cuts have aided businesses or investors, with cuts on estate taxes and investments accounting for nearly half of the tax cuts and cuts for businesses also well into the billions of dollars.") and "Victors and Spoils" ("Florida's governor has been an aggressive privatizer, and as The Miami Herald put it after a careful study of state records, 'his bold experiment has been a success — at least for him and the Republican Party, records show. The policy has spawned a network of contractors who have given him, other Republican politicians and the Florida G.O.P. millions of dollars in campaign donations.'")
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editors have some suggestions for the special session, starting with this:
Mention this one, and many people start laughing. Lawmakers repeal the intangibles tax cuts that sliced more than $1 billion from the state's annual revenue stream?Much more here: AVOID A HATCHET JOB
But legislators should face facts: These cuts -- especially the last few rounds, which benefited people with average incomes of $2 million or more -- amount to welfare for rich people. And if welfare programs have to be cut, this is a good place to start.
If they're brave enough, lawmakers can resolve the entire budget crisis with one wise decision. And they can tell those who complain that they enjoyed an intangibles tax "holiday" -- much like the sales tax break extended to working families.
Allen Trial This Week
"As the Merritt Island Republican heads to trial this week accused of offering to pay $20 to perform oral sex on an undercover police officer, Allen remains confident he will be acquitted, welcomed back into the Republican fold and even win a state Senate seat." "Rep. Allen's life has been marked by comebacks".
"The nation's biggest battleground state" sits it out
"Florida Democrats have been warring with the Democratic National Committee since the state advanced its March presidential primary to Jan. 29, flouting a party rule that says only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina can vote on presidential nominees before Feb. 5. Voting will still take place in Florida in January. But because the DNC has refused to recognize the primary, it will be a nonbinding beauty contest lacking the sizzle of the delegate-selection fight once envisioned for the nation's biggest battleground state." "Primary feud bedevils Dem leader".
Carl Hiaasen writes today, "face it. A non binding election is about as compelling as a non binding Lotto drawing, without the ping pong balls."
It seems increasingly likely that Florida's 2008 Democratic presidential primary will mean absolutely nothing, causing shorter-than-usual lines at the polls.Much more here:"Democrats -- not a vote of confidence".
The Democratic National Committee hasn't budged from its threat to strip the state of its 210 convention delegates as punishment for advancing the date of the vote to Jan. 29.
At first, the dispute looked like a fiendishly clever ploy to make the party leadership appear self-destructive and incompetent, thereby lulling Republicans into a sense of complacency.
Now it's obvious that the DNC really is self-destructive and incompetent, stubbornly insisting on perpetuating the charade that allows only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to hold nominating contests before Feb. 5.>
Florida Leads the Way
Betcha didn't know that "Florida, with many uninsured and transient residents, has emerged as a key start-up area for walk-in clinics in retail stores. "
Some doctors argue that they lose touch with patients who go to retail clinics, that most clinics are run by advanced-trained nurses working alone, that they promote superficial care without follow-up and that they bring sick people near healthy shoppers."Walk-in health clinics flourishing, but many doctors skeptical of care".
"A grass-roots petition drive intended to give citizens morecontrol over development in their cities and counties is being challenged by a campaign funded by big business and developers. The business group, called Save Our Constitution, was created by some of Tallahassee's finest [sic] political operatives, and is using a new law to target asignature-petition group called Florida Hometown Democracy." "Anti-petition drive targets Hometown amendment". See also "Business-backed group says Hometown Democracy will destroy Florida's 'scenic beauty'" ("Barney Bishop, president of the powerful Associated Industries of Florida, is its chairman. But Friday, he was at a loss to explain how the amendment would hurt the environment.")
Please Try Again
"On Monday, counties, cities and schools are set to ask the Florida Supreme Court to rehear and clarify its ruling from earlier this month that has local governments uncertain and unsettled." "Cities, counties worried about bonds".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board:
Lawmakers seeking guidance as they head into their special session Oct. 3to cut $1.1 billion in state spending ought to embrace Gov. Charlie Crist's idea to set priorities rather than cutting across the board. Problem is, he's setting the wrong priorities."Wrong priorities".
From 10,000 feet looking down, the governor's plan makes sense. Cut the budget, but spare some spending on public projects to jump-start the construction industry.
But here on the ground, Mr. Crist's cuts to universities and community colleges would do great harm to the economic growth he covets. His spending suggestions are aimed at bailing Florida out of a tough budget year rather than making the long-term investment needed to grow a diverse economy.
"To hear the government tell it, Narseal Batiste and six followers were a budding homegrown terrorist cell determined to launch a spectacular strike that would rival the Sept. 11 attacks by toppling the 110-story Sears Tower in Chicago."
Batiste, the Miami leader of an obscure religious sect, viewed this as the opening salvo in a "full ground war" that would eventually replace the U.S. government with an Islamic regime, according to federal prosecutors."Trial nears for alleged 'homegrown' Miami terror cell".
"I want to fight some jihad," Batiste said in a 2006 conversation taped by the FBI. "That's all I live for."
But defense lawyers and supporters of the so-called "Liberty City Seven" tell a different story. They say the alleged terror conspiracy was driven by a pair of paid FBI informants - one claiming to be an al-Qaida emissary - and that members of the group from a blighted urban area never sought to hurt anyone.
Aside from a few knives, machetes and one 9mm handgun [and paint guns], the group never obtained any explosives or military weaponry necessary to pull off such a grandiose operation.
"Improving home studies, staff training and children's attendance at hearings are some of the common goals that officials across Florida have set for enhancing child dependency procedures." "State officials set goals to improve child dependency procedures".
"Despite the governor's anti-gaming pledge, gambling options are increasing in Florida and will expand again if a deal is reached with the Seminoles." Meanwhile, "Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives have also seized on the issue, using it to stoke their conservative credentials and distance themselves from the more moderate Crist." "Crist defends hedge on gaming as way to stanch budget cuts".
It's The Teamsters, Stupid
The scabby Orlando Sentinel editorial board takes shots at unions at every opportunity:
Using unfounded safety worries as a cover for protectionism and Mexico bashing, the Senate voted this past week to shut down a pilot program allowing trucks from south of the border on U.S. highways. ..."Overblown worries".
Taking their cue from the Teamsters union and its 100,000 long-haul truckers, program foes in the Senate raised the specter of killer trucks from Mexico. But the program imposes the same safety, insurance and licensing requirements that apply to all U.S. truckers. Those requirements are to been forced with federal inspections on both sides of the border.
GOPers and their golf carts
One of Florida's problems is the influx of a certain class (think upper-middle) of retirees from certain regions of the country; these folks don't give a damn about Florida's education system or pretty much anything else except the absence of an income tax (or an intangibles tax). These folks for the most part have little interest in the state's future, and they vote. They have to live somewhere:
''It's a beautiful day in The Villages,'' the decidedly chipper receptionists tell callers to Florida's fastest-growing retirement community, no matter the forecast.And how does one know they are entering this wonderland of selfishness? Why, and oh so fittingly, it's the golf carts, stupid:
For Republican candidates, the sloganeering rings true. In the Central Florida development that sprawls over three counties and two Zip Codes, Republican voters outnumber Democrats roughly 2-1. Turnout in Sumter County, where the bulk of the community lives, was among the highest in the state in the 2004 presidential election.
''It's safe to say that the road to the White House is through Florida, and the road to Florida is through The Villages,'' said Richard Cole, president of the largest of the community's four Republican clubs. ``We're a substantial political force.'' ...
It was former Gov. Jeb Bush who put The Villages on the political map. He saw that one of the fastest-growing developments in the nation would be a treasure trove of votes, not to mention campaign cash. Developer Gary Morse was one of the top donors to Bush and his brother's presidential campaign, and he gave $500,000 -- the single largest donation -- to the Republican Party of Florida last year.
Visitors know they are getting close when they come upon golf-cart retailers that resemble South Florida's banner-draped car dealerships. Most residents motor around in the carts, which merit special parking spaces at the nearby Wal-Mart. The community has a train-set perfection, with grass that looks more sculpted and carved than mowed and weed-whacked."Retirees' dreamland is Republican bastion".
Freddie A Regular Laff Riot
"Courting Miami Cuban-Americans on Radio Mambi on Friday in Little Havana, Fred Thompson was adamant about his approach to Fidel Castro's Cuba: 'We definitely would maintain sanctions, would maintain the embargo.'"
So we were curious about a Weekly Standard article noting "box upon box" of cigars from Havana in Thompson's office."The Buzz: Cuban stogie could be too hot for Thompson".
In a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9, Thompson brushed off the apparent contradiction between the embargo and his fondness for Cuban stogies. "If I have a friend that occasionally passes me a cigar, I don't check its heritage," he said. "You know, if it's good, I smoke it."
Miami-Dade Democratic chairman Joe Garcia questioned whether law-and-order voters will embrace a candidate "who smokes something illegal."
Not Ready For Prime Time
"Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson walked through rows of assault rifles, pistols and other firearms, signing autographs and greeting voters at a gun show Saturday, but some of the gun advocates weren't convinced he was completely on their side."
"I was all for him until I started reading the votes," said gun dealer Ken Strevels, standing at a table line with machine guns, including an enormous .50 caliber rifle held up by a tripod. "I'm not sure now. He's flipping on the vote. It's like he's working both sides.""Thompson seeks pro-gun vote in Fla., but met with some skepticism".
As Fred blathers on about the joys of assault weapons, we read that "Cops at risk as criminals use more assault weapons". See also "Assault-weapon attacks rise in Miami".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Make Florida's insurers pay for diabetes testing".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board:
In Jacksonville last week, Gov. Charlie Crist spoke at a benefit for the United Negro College Fund at Edward Waters College, saying, "What matters to us in Tallahassee today is if you are a Floridian and if you need help.""Session secrets".
He added again, as he has been heard to say many times in the capital city since his election, party affiliation is not important. His larger meaning is no doubt what most great governors come to discover sooner or later, that the job is bigger than either party and that it needs the voices of both - and all - sides to fully frame and begin to solve big problems.
Gov. Reubin Askew, during his eight years as chief executive, put it another way, saying frequently, "It is one thing to run for office, but quite another to govern."
Sometimes this wisdom is underestimated, as appears to be the case in the behind-the-scenes work leading up to the special budget-cutting session that is now expected to convene on Oct. 3, running through Oct. 12 if necessary.
The Legislature has exempted itself from the Sunshine Law, so its negotiations are going on behind the scenes quite legally, if frustratingly, for the minority party. Chief negotiators for the two chambers, Sen. Lisa Carlton, R-Osprey, and Rep. Ray Sansom, R-Destin, are working with Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, and House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, and the leadership reports "significant progress," though no details.
Meanwhile, however, Democratic Party leaders are largely left out of the discussion and have, as their only option, the ability to vote "no" to a budget document they have no hand in crafting.
"This is not a dream job"
"For Floridians, the stakes are huge. For the candidates, condolences are in order. This is not a dream job. Making kids in Florida smarter and more successful would be tough even if everybody were rowing in the same direction. But in Florida, post-Jeb, it's not even clear which way the commissioner's bosses are headed, or who the bosses are, exactly. And really, how far can the commissioner row anyway if we're talking, again, about budget cuts for schools?" "One will stand at the head of the class".
"Bush's Mr. Cellophane" Flip-Flops
"Immigration advocates are hoping to push a small part of the failed immigration package forward, but they're unlikely to have one of the package's biggest champions in their corner."
Sen. Mel Martinez, who came under withering criticism from the conservative wing of his Republican party for playing a key role in backing an immigration overhaul, said Friday he's not inclined to support the DREAM act, legislation that would help the children of illegal immigrants stay in the U.S."Cuban support softening for GOP?"
Martinez's office said the Florida senator - who doubles as general chair of the Republican National Committee - does not support "adding immigration-related amendments'' to the defense bill - and that's exactly what DREAM Act sponsor Sen. Dick Durbin plans to do.